Pro bono booster bill to begin going through Parliament

The bill was initially lodged in 2018

Pro bono booster bill to begin going through Parliament

A bill that looks to strengthen the ability of employed lawyers to provide pro bono services is set to begin going through the parliamentary process, according to the New Zealand Law Society.

Initially lodged by Hutt South MP Chris Bishop in 2018, the Lawyers and Conveyancers (Employed Lawyers Providing Free Legal Services) Amendment Bill will add a new section to the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006. The new section enables “a lawyer who is employed in either a law practice or in-house (i.e. by a non-lawyer, like at a government agency or a power company) to do legal work other than for the lawyer’s employer.”

In a statement to the New Zealand Law Society, Bishop said that he was spurred to present the bill after reading a letter an in-house lawyer addressed to the organisation’s LawTalk publication in December 2017, seeing a chance to improve access to justice.

“The current act is far too strict in its application and stops lawyers providing legal assistance to those who need it,” Bishop said.

The New Zealand Law Society applauded the progress on the bill.

“This is an area that the Law Society has identified as needing attention and we look forward to the opportunity to submit on the bill as it progresses through the parliamentary process,” said Gabrielle O’Brien, the organisation’s general manager on law reform and sections.

The bill was drawn from the members’ bills ballot on 23 July.

Pro bono work has become particularly important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, the Law Society had put out a call for lawyers to provide aid to community law centres.

In May, it was announced that the government would allocate funding to the establishment of a pro bono clearing house.

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